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    Tips for Increasing Rapid Naming Ability in Struggling Readers

    By Jenny Nordman
     | Sep 13, 2017

    Rapid Naming AbilityWhile rapid naming ability may not be the first thing one thinks of when listing the characteristics of an effective reader, the impact of this cognitive skill should not be underestimated. In fact, children with reading issues often demonstrate significant difficulty when asked to quickly name familiar objects or symbols. Conversely, more advanced readers tend to perform strongly on rapid naming tasks.

    Rapid naming involves processing information and responding swiftly. Within the context of reading, it is needed for word retrieval, sound–symbol correspondence, automaticity, and oral reading fluency. For a student to be able to respond and integrate information, a variety of neural systems must work together quickly and seamlessly. However, when instructing struggling readers or those with documented reading disabilities, achieving rapid naming may require additional practice.

    Here are some practical tips that can be used to increase rapid naming ability when working with readers who have difficulty with this important cognitive skill:

    • Play “Search and Say” with the classroom word wall and a flashlight. The teacher (or a selected student) points to words on the word wall using a flashlight, and the students must quickly respond. This activity builds rapid sight word recall.
    • Have the student complete timed, repeated readings of a passage in order to build automaticity. It is recommended that the passage be no more than 100 words. The student can make a game of it by trying to beat their time, and this activity can be used as a literacy center with premade, leveled passages and stopwatches.
    • Play games that require quick word retrieval, such as Pictionary, Scattergories, or charades. Connect these activities to a text selection by incorporating vocabulary words or scenes from a story.
    • Use flash cards for letters, sight words, sounds, phonograms, etc. Flash card activities require fast processing, but they should not be competitive if being used for remediation.
    • Sing short songs or recite poems and quicken the pace as you repeat. This activity gradually increases the demand on processing speed, and is especially enjoyable for young children. Please note that those with speech issues may find this activity difficult.

    With these practical activities, you can help to build rapid naming ability in your students. Be sure to also send a few of these suggestions home to parents for even more practice. 

    Jenny NordmanDr. Jenny Nordman is an assistant professor of reading and literacy at Regis University in Denver, where she coordinates of the Master of Education in Reading program. Her areas of expertise include reading assessment and intervention, cognitive skills associated with reading success, neurocognition, and evidence-based best practices.

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    Back to School After a Natural Disaster: Teaching Hurricane Harvey

    By Alina O'Donnell
     | Sep 05, 2017

    Harvey Library DamageThis week, many Houston-area teachers will finally return to school after delays caused by Hurricane Harvey, a disaster that—beyond broken windows, power outages, and destroyed classroom supplies—could impact students’ emotional and academic well-being for years to come.

    More than just places to learn, studies show that schools and teachers help children cope with disasters by providing stability, support, and routine as well as a space to process their trauma.

    To prepare for the long, arduous road to normalcy ahead, we’ve compiled a list of learning tools and resources to help educators respond to the storm and its aftermath with students.

    Lessons and activities

    NASA’s Hurricane Educational Links: NASA-developed educational tools including posters, visualizations and graphics, lesson plans, and classroom activities on hurricanes. 

    Education World’s Hurricane Watch: Lessons and classroom activities to help students understand hurricanes and their consequences. 

    Hurricane Season, Grades 6-8: The National Education Association’s recommended resources including lesson plans, classroom activities, printables, animations, and videos.

    Lesson Plans for Teachers: Compiled by the Teachers Pay Teachers group, this site includes free and inexpensive lesson plans, videos, writing prompts, and more.

    Helping After Harvey: Ideas for hosting school-wide volunteer initiatives such as fundraisers, social media campaigns, blood drives, and more. This site also includes a list of inclusive disaster strategies.

    Media literacy tools

    How Media Literacy Helps You Talk About Hurricane Harvey With Your Students”: PBS lesson to help educators discuss the effects of extreme weather events and helpful media literacy tools when it comes to media coverage of the hurricane.

    Harvey in Pictures: A collection of powerful photographs depicting the hurricane and its aftermath.

    "Teaching Hurricane Harvey: Ideas and Resources:” The New York Times guide explains how teachers can round up storm-related news and images from social media for students to analyze and provides discussion questions.

    Books

    Hurricane Harvey Book Club: Started by a second-grade teacher, this Facebook group (which now has more than 50,000 members) is a “literary oasis” where people can share videos of themselves reading aloud with those who have no books available.

    8 Books to Help Children Understand Natural Disasters and Cope With Anxiety”: Published by Forbes, this list offers books recommendations for helping children understand the disaster and cope with the feelings they may have now and later on.

    Alina O’Donnell is the editor of Literacy Daily. 

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    Reading Should Be Hard

    By Carla Kessler
     | Aug 23, 2017

    Reading Should Be HardWhile browsing Facebook the other day, I came across an online article that was fascinating, but difficult to read. I had to repeatedly reread sentences, or refer back to the beginning of the paragraph. I stumbled over familiar words used in unfamiliar contexts.

    This was not a poorly written piece; on the contrary, it was fluid and full of great ideas. But I had only made it through two-thirds of the piece when I felt discouraged and gave up.

    I don’t often run into challenging content on Facebook, and I guess I had forgotten what it's like to have to work hard at reading.

    Then it dawned on me—I wonder if this is how my struggling readers feel about reading, all the time.

    Coincidentally, I had just read a MindShift article on discussing how to promote a growth mindset in readers. In other words, how to help struggling readers persevere.

    Their message? Reading is a “complicated experience.” It is hard! And nothing is more discouraging to a struggling reader than thinking reading is supposed to be easy.

    I already know how to read, so I can get away with ignoring an occasional Facebook-related challenge. But struggling readers—how can they learn if they give up? 

    The article provides ideas to help teachers guide students in overcoming their reading challenges. As a vocabulary specialist, here’s how I apply these ideas to help students decipher unknown words on their own.  

    Recognize the source of the challenge

    Provide high-interest reading with challenging words and ask comprehension questions that test their understanding of those words. If they struggle to answer, ask them to explain why. Then, replace those challenging words with easy synonyms, and ask the questions again. This will help them identify the specific words that are at the root of the challenge.

    Remind them that strong readers struggle too

    Show students that you also struggle with comprehension when you encounter unfamiliar words. Model what you do:

    • Reread the sentence
    • Use context clues to define the word (talk them through this process)
    • Look up the word in a dictionary
    • Use a technique for remembering the meaning of the word

    Provide tools

    • Prove to them that most people don’t remember a word after one introduction, by playing the Hot Leads! memory strategy game. This activity only needs to be done once to get the point across.
    • Help them keep track of new words using a journal. On each page create three columns with three headings: word, meaning, and picture/example. The students can fill out the columns out as they read.
    • Provide an easy-to-use digital search tool such as a tablet or phone (they do not need to be connected) with a downloaded dictionary.

    Let them struggle and succeed, review, and question—then celebrate the learning!

    Carla Kessler is the director of learning at LogixLab LLC and along with her husband, Richard, co-creator of Word Lab Web. She was formerly a Title I coordinator and learning specialist, and has been recognized as an Outstanding Educator by Delta Kappa Gamma Society International.

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    Relationship-Building for Effective Writing Instruction

    By Jen McDonough and Kristin Ackerman
     | Aug 17, 2017

    Girl WritingHelping young children grow as writers can be overwhelming for many teachers. How do you jump-start their creative processes? How should you structure writing time? Should you ask your students to share their writing? With so much to consider, it can become entirely too overwhelming to begin. Now what? We encourage you to step back, breathe, and remember what is most important when working with budding writers.

    We argue that, above all, the most important first step in effective writing instruction is forming strong relationships with your students. Writing is hard work and extremely personal; if you do not have trusting relationships with students first, they will most likely shut down when you try to talk to them about their writing. The relationships we form with our students become the foundation of our learning partnership. We have found the following tips to be most helpful in creating a classroom culture of mutual trust and respect:

    • Writing teachers need to write. Period. If you haven’t experienced the difficulty of finding an idea, deciding how to shape a story, understanding mechanics and conventions, overcoming writers block, and more, it will be hard for you to help the writer sitting next to you. You must do the work you are asking your students to do. Before you start a new genre or writing project, try it first. As you write, think about what was tricky for you, potential problems that might arise for the students, and what felt good. Take notes and use them to help plan the lessons and conferring strategies you might teach. Students know when you are being authentic and will trust your guidance when they see you as a learner too.
    • Start with strengths. Nothing shuts down a relationship faster than only focusing on the problems. Each time you meet with a writer, find what “glows” before you work on the “grows.” Praise should focus on specific strategies and techniques. We start the first two weeks of writing time just complimenting our students. We know the heavy lifting will come and we know the pressures of meeting curriculum needs. We also know that when students feel success in learning, they are more apt to continue.
    • Listen, really listen. As teachers we often bring our own agendas. We know what needs to be taught and what the steps are for getting there. The problem is when we make a student’s piece of writing our agenda. When you sit next to a writer, ask questions and really listen to what the writer is trying to accomplish. Help the student move forward in their own direction. The agenda items get checked off, but the writer still feels in control.
    • Know your students. Even small gestures—such as greeting them at the door, noticing new shoes and haircuts, holding morning meetings, or occasionally hanging around at recess or lunch—go a long way. When you take the time to get to know your students, you are in a better position to help them record and share their stories and passions with the world.

    When conferring with young children, many teachers jump right into “teacher mode” and forget the vulnerability that comes with the process of writing. From finding your voice, to mastering spelling and grammar, to mustering up the courage to share your work—writing is not easy to do or to teach. We believe that teachers who take time to build a relationship of trust with students, who show that they understand the challenges and the hard work that accompany writing, and who make an effort to truly get to know their students will see the best results.

    Kristen AckermanKristin Ackerman is a teacher, writer and presenter. She has been teaching for 14 years and is passionate about supporting students and teachers. She is the co-author of Conferring with Young Writers:  What to do When You Don’t Know What to Do both published by Stenhouse Publishers. Kristin presents to teachers across the country on reading and writing topics. You can find her on Twitter or on her blog literacychats.wordpress.com.

    Jen McDonoughJen McDonough has been a first grade teacher and part-time literacy coach for 17 years. She is the co-author of A Place for Wonder: Reading and Writing Nonfiction in the Primary Grades with Georgia Heard and more recently co-author of Conferring with Young Writers:  What to do When you Don’t Know What to Do both published by Stenhouse Publishers. Jen presents to teachers across the country on reading and writing topics and is excited about her new role as a K-4 literacy specialist at The Pine School in Hobe Sound, FL. You can find her on Twitter or on her blog literacychats.wordpress.com

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    Building a Home–School Connection Through Take-Home Books

    By Stephanie Laird
     | Aug 01, 2017
    Literacy BagsFor the past three years, I have served as an instructional coach at a Title I elementary school. One of my responsibilities is to help facilitate parent and community outreach, therefore I’m always on the lookout for new ways to strengthen the home–school connection and reading strategies and activities that parents can try at home.

    In the past, I had used social media, brochures, and our Title I night as connection opportunities, but I still hadn’t seen the impact on student achievement or motivation that I had hoped for. Recognizing the importance literacy and a love of reading play in our students’ lives, I began to brainstorm how I could reach out to families every month, ensure the students have a quality home reading library, and partner with parents to provide reading opportunities at home. 

    It was during this brainstorming session that I came across the Dollar General Literacy Foundation and applied for a Literacy Outreach Grant. The online application process was simple; there’s a multipage form consisting of open-ended questions about the project and general information. I submitted the application and we were fortunate to receive $2,000 to use for the 2016–2017 school year. I reapplied to receive additional funding for the 2017–2018 school year, and this year's grants will be announced in September. 

    Thanks to the grant, our kindergarten through fifth-grade students receive a literacy take-home bag every month, which contains a new book and at-home resources (such as links to relevant websites and apps, discussion questions, main idea dice templates, and a reading version of Bingo). To date, we have been able to add more than 1,500 new books (which do not have to be returned) into the home libraries of our students. Studies have shown repeatedly that the simple act of providing resources and/or literacy activities positively impacts student literacy achievement. 

    I purchased the books from Scholastic, which allowed us to maximize the amount and variety of books we could get with the grant funding. I made sure to have a balance of fiction and nonfiction titles, such as If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, Ramona, Frindle, and The One and Only Ivan. 

    Since starting the program in September 2016, we have seen an increase in student motivation to read, academic achievement, and parent involvement. I have had parents contact me to thank me for involving them in their child’s reading, and to share how great it is to see their child sit and enjoy reading. We have students who, in the past, would open a book and pretend to read, and some who would openly share that they had never read an entire chapter book. As a teacher and instructional coach, this stuck with me, and now when I come to deliver the take-home bags every month, it's these same students cheering and rushing over to get a bag. A day or two after the bags have been taken home, I have students come up to me and share what the book was about and ask if I know the title of the book they'll get next month. 

    With additional grant funding, I plan to expand the Literacy Take-Home Bag program to include additional areas of literacy as well as include our preschool students and families.. I want to ensure every student has a solid, and early established, foundation of literacy, and this begins in the home. 

    The Dollar General Literacy Foundation offers grants for summer, family, youth, and adult literacy programs. Funding ranges from $3,000 to $15,000, depending on the program. I encourage you to visit dollargeneral.com for more information and to apply for a grant to impact literacy in your school or community. 

    Stephanie LairdStephanie Laird is an ambassador and advocate for education, literacy, and teacher leadership. Currently, she is an instructional coach, a member of the Board of Directors of ILA, and president of the Iowa Reading Association. She shares her ideas with educators through social media, professional writings, and by facilitating adult learning nationwide. To connect with Laird, follow @LairdLearning on Twitter or visit LairdLearning.weebly.com. 
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